It is easily forgotten how influential the context of watching a film is, beyond its interior world. If a romantic positive film is made in a war-torn country whose cinema only tackles the horrors of daily life, it can be viewed as a glimmer of hope or as a naive attempt to escape violence. In a short film programme, the curator could slip in a light romantic comedy in the midst of a cruel programme to mess with the audience’s head or set them at ease. He could gradually build the atmosphere from hopeful to apocalyptic visions in a downward spiral, end it on a joyful note or place the lighter film in the middle to serve as a palette cleanser. His visions might not work at all to his intent, and it is these decisions that will reveal his talent for curating.
I curated my own downward spiral in a day: from the corruption of Dirty Harry to the meaninglessness of Stranger than Paradise and to the heart-wrenching Breaking the Waves.
It could be argued that curators are not artists because they only filter films by using their perspective and knowledge to sort through what is valuable to them, more of a critical than creative ability. But I would point out that artists themselves are a filter of their own sensitivity, because they express life the way it is revealed to them, and share it by using the tools of the art they are gifted in. If the film director employs DOPs, actors, editors and so on to share his vision, a curator employs those resulting films to share his. One could compare the film submissions to the sculptor’s marble, into which he carves until he finds the shape he was looking for. Like the bell maker in Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV agonisingly tries to find the right soil for his work, the curator scours the internet and goes to countless festivals.
Baudelaire said that “nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that time impresses upon our sensibility”. I also believe that pure originality does not exist in a vacuum and always draws on truths that are already existent but not yet expressed in a certain form. Real creativity is the ability to find connections between things that might not be logically linked and to build them like neurological synapses. A curator has the power and freedom to discover these bridges by experimenting with sets of films and tailoring them into a programme.
Understanding this new paradigm opens up endless creative pathways, waiting patiently to be explored. For instance, the curator has no conceptual restrictions of time and geography, because he can create a strand of films that tackle the same subject from several cultures throughout time, synthesising them into a global cinematic mosaic. Some examples of feature films based on this approach are LIFE IN A DAY which weaves together amateur film snippets of the world or PARIS JE T’AIME which comprises distinct authorial views of the city of lights. I believe that a filmmaker, no matter how profound his vision, will always be bound to his own perspective, while the curator has a vantage point that allows him to mix and match views together to create new meanings and values.